Actors often remark on the power of costume in terms of bringing a character to life: before donning the white-blonde wig, the pirate’s eye-patch, or the Batsuit, they say, it’s just line-reading and imagination. But once they emerge from wardrobe, Presto! The make-believe becomes near-reality.
We are trained, from early childhood, to trust, obey, and show deference to people who wear uniforms: That gentleman has served our country, Bobby — be sure to salute him! Or else, If you ever get lost, go to someone dressed like that lady — she’s a policeman, and she’ll help you.
But TSA employees, who wear official-looking uniforms adorned with embroidered patches, soldierlike epaulets at the shoulder, and even a shiny badge, are not officers. Not in the police sense, and certainly not in the military sense.
The authority and responsibilities attendant to being a police officer or member of the armed forces are not simply handed out upon hiring. Rather, they reflect months (or years) of training on the part of the person wearing one of those uniforms. The “decorated” TSA employee, on the other hand, will have completed a mere 80 hours of training–that’s two weeks.
TSA employees do not have the authority to detain or arrest passengers. They do not have the right to order people to go through the X-ray scanners if they choose to opt-out. Yet those uniforms and badges lend TSA screeners an appearance that says otherwise. And as thousands of law-abiding Americans who’ve been barked-at, separated from their children, groped as though they were hardened criminals entering a courtroom, and/or detained for hours in glass cages will tell you, the TSA sure acts like they have that kind of power.
Some members of Congress tried to change that:
[Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)] said TSA had spent more than $1 million in taxpayer money on badges alone since 2009. Worse, she said evidence is mounting that TSA screeners often abuse the impression that they are officers with authority, and noted some cases of rape and other abuse of passengers that has led to dozens of arrests.
“These are reasons enough we need to take them out of their uniforms, disallow the uniforms and put them back to their job title of airport security screener,” Blackburn said in Thursday debate.
Sadly, a majority of our Congressional representatives voted to continue to allow this bloated, criminal agency to dress its employees — a poorly screened and risibly ill-trained collection of people that includes thieves, sexual predators, drug traffickers, and a priest who’d been dismissed for child molestation — in those official-looking blue uniforms and badges.
You can find your Congressperson’s e-mail address here.
(Also at Litbrit.)